Shapeways, The Community

Initial Design rules Stainless Steel 3D printing

This post is meant to give you guys a better indication of what is and what is not possible with 3D printing Stainless Steel. These guidelines are based on all your uploads and are a work in progress. They are meant to be indicative. We have images to illustrate these examples and I will add them once we have permission from the model owners.

I know that mass and weight are weird things to consider when 3D
modeling(unless you’re a CAD person of course). But, look at your model
and think, if I made this out of clay would it work?
This is really the best tip I can give you.

small parts up to 50 by 50mm

95% of these parts print successfully. They can have very thin walls of below 3 mm. But, the most important reason for failing is that the parts are not strong enough or do not self-support. The model will either fall apart or crush itself. Lets imagine we are trying to print a wine glass standing upright. A 3 mm thick stem might work if it were printed alone. But in a wine glass the stem has to support the bowl. During production the model is very fragile. If the bowl is heavy it will simply topple over.

Lets imagine now that we are trying to print this same wineglass horizontally. The stem would break in the middle. Lets now imagine that we are trying to print a wine glass that has no stem but simply consists of the bowl. This would work because a wine glass bowl is a self supporting structure without a weak point that could cause the model to break. What if we get ambitious and would like to add lots of decoration to our wineglass bowl? This is possible. But, if the decoration would consist of a lot of mass the weight would break the bowl during the printing process.

With Stainless Steel it is not a case of absolute wall thickness as with the other materials. The EOS printer that makes White, Strong & Flexible simply can not print thinner walls than 0.7mm (really, please only use 1mm or higher). With Stainless Steel there are a lot of variables. This is why it is so hard for us to give you guidance on what can and can not be done.

Very thin or delicate structures can not be printed either.

If it looks wispy and lovely and feather-like it will probably have an issue. People have to remove support material, put it in an oven etc. 

Integrated ‘whole’ parts have the highest chance of success. Lets imagine you wanted to print a plate of spaghetti. If it was one mass of spaghetti on a plate it might be possible. If there were strands of spaghetti that magically would stand upright and horizontally in all directions it would not work, it would break. If it would be and incredibly thin structure consisting of many individual strands in a bowl, it would not work. It could simply not be cleaned.

Furthermore since there is an oven step involved whereby the models are all heated to a high temperature parts might fuse if they are loose or close together. So, a bowl of many individual strands of spaghetti would fuse.

Medium to large parts less than 200 by 200 by 100mm

These parts need wall thicknesses of 3mm. Why? The part is larger so the internal structures supporting the part need to be stronger.

These are what I can give you right now. I hope to get more information to you as we learn.

Images are used under a Creative Commons Share, remix, attribution license. Images made by: KARPOV, AndrewK100 and Sebastian_Mary respectively.

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